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Confessions: The Private School Murders

Wealthy young women are being murdered, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. Her first case was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now she's working to exonerate her brother of his girlfriend's homicide. And danger just got closer.

One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer... and Tandy perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?

James Patterson keeps the confessions coming as Tandy delves deeper into her own tumultuous history and the skeletons in the Angel family closet.

Prologue

Two

“It’s about your friends, Matty,” I said through the grid. “The ones who swore they were playing poker with you when Tamara was killed. They say they lied to protect you, but now they’ve had some kind of crisis of conscience. They told Philippe they’re not going to lie under oath.”

I held my breath and waited for the inevitable explosion. While Matthew had a polished and shiny rep in public, we inside the Angel family knew that at any given moment he could go nuclear. Prone to violent outbursts was the clinical phrase.

But today my brother simply blinked. His eyes were heavy with sadness and confusion.

“I might have done it, Tandy,” he finally mumbled. “I don’t know.”

“Matthew, come on!” I blurted, panic burbling up inside my chest. “You did not kill Tamara.”

He leaned in closer to the grid, his hand flattened against the glass so that his palm turned white. “The guys are telling the truth, Tandy. We only played poker for a couple hours. I wasn’t with them at the time when the medical examiner says Tamara was killed.”

I pressed my lips together as hard as I could to hold back my anger. Not to mention my confusion and abject terror. “What? Where did you go?”

He shook his head. “I don’t even know. Some bar? I got hammered and somehow made it home. It’s pretty much a blur.” He pressed the heels of his hands into his temples and sucked in a breath before continuing. “All I know is that I got into bed with her, and when I woke up, she was dead. There was blood all over me, Tandy. Blood everywhere. And I have no memory of what happened before that.”

I stared at him, wide-eyed. For once in my life, I had no idea what to say.

But then, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Back when Tamara was killed, he was still on Malcolm and Maud’s little Angel Pharma concoctions—special cocktails whipped up at the drug company my father founded—which made him prone not only to violent outbursts and manic episodes but also to blackouts.

I looked down at my hands. They trembled as I gathered the guts to ask a question I’d needed the answer to for weeks.

“Why didn’t you tell me Tamara was dead, Matty?” I hazarded a glance at his eyes. “You came home that day. You spent the whole afternoon with us. You never once felt the need to say ‘Oh, hey, guys, I kind of found Tamara murdered this morning’?”

Matthew pressed the heels of his hands into his eye sockets. “I was in shock,” he said. “And I was terrified, okay? I didn’t know what had happened. And you guys were already being put through the wringer by the DA, thanks to Malcolm and Maud. I thought… I thought…”

Suddenly he slammed his hand against the glass and the whole wall shuddered.

“Watch it!” the guard barked.

“You thought what?” I asked quietly.

He shook his head. “I think I thought that if I just ignored it, somehow it would all go away. I didn’t want more scrutiny placed on us.” His eyes were wet as he finally looked me in the eye. “Maybe I did do it, Tandy. Craziness runs in our veins, right?”

“Not in mine, Matty. Not anymore.” I took a breath. “I don’t do crazy these days.”

“Oh, you do crazy just fine.”

Then, out of nowhere, Matthew burst into tears. I’d never seen him cry once in my entire life.

“I was drunk. I don’t know how else I could have done it,” he said between sobs. “If I could see the apartment again… maybe… if I could go back there, maybe it would come back to me. God, I wish I could just get bail. Have you talked to Uncle Peter? Can’t he find the money somewhere?”

I shook my head, my throat full. “We’re totally broke, remember? And your bail is five million dollars.” I pressed my palm to the glass at roughly the same angle as his, as if the connection brought us closer. “Please don’t keep saying you might be guilty, Matty. It can’t be true.”

The door behind him squealed open. “Time’s up,” the guard said.

“I’m sorry, kiddo.” Matthew shot me what looked like an apologetic smile as he was pulled away. The door slammed behind them and I just sat there, stunned.

“You taking up residence or what?” the guard standing behind me said. I got up and walked briskly down the hall in front of him, pretending I wasn’t completely broken inside.

When I emerged from The Tombs, the bright sunlight hit my eyes and they burned. I squinted as I hailed a cab on Baxter, then slammed the door so hard the whole car rattled.

“Please take me home,” I said to the cabbie.

He drilled me through the rearview mirror with his hard black eyes. “You want me to guess where you live?”

“The Dakota,” I barked, in no mood. “Just go.”

The cab leapt forward, and we headed uptown.

CONFESSION

There’s something I’ve been avoiding. Something I haven’t admitted to anyone. I’ve barely even admitted it to myself. But this is a confession, so I’m confessing. Here goes.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this whole having-emotions thing.

I know, I know. I’m the one who freaked out when I realized that the multiple pills my parents had been feeding us kids every morning were, in fact, high-test Angel Pharma mood-, mind-, and body-altering drugs. I’m the one who demanded that Harry go cold turkey with me so that we could take back control of our lives, our heads, maybe even our souls.

But those pills tainted our very essence—everything that made us human. I mean, when I saw my parents’ dead bodies lying twisted in their bed, I didn’t even cry. I didn’t feel anguish or loss, I just felt angry. Anger was the only emotion the Angel kids were occasionally allowed to feel. Probably because anger produces adrenaline and adrenaline can be very useful. Whether you’re tearing down a professional gridiron with two three-hundred-pound defensive ends on your tail, playing Mozart at Carnegie Hall, working complex calc problems at a desk, or navigating the wilds of uncharted jungles, adrenaline is a good thing to have on your side.

And of course, Malcolm and Maud knew that. They formulated our daily uppers and downers for optimal performance. They rewarded excellence with extravagant prizes called Grande Gongos and responded to failure with extreme punishments called Big Chops. And all emotions, like empathy, sadness, even joy, were failures. Pointless. Not for their little protégés.

Until Malcolm and Maud were gone. And I started making decisions for myself.

Now it’s three months later, and yeah, I’m feeling things, all right. I’m feeling sorrow and excitement and nervousness. I’m feeling happiness and uncertainty and self-doubt. There’s even a little bit of hopefulness sometimes. It’s all emotion, all the time, and to be honest, sometimes I just want to down a whole mess of those pills again so I can have a little peace.

But the worst of all these new emotions is the fear. I can’t stand feeling fear. And these days I’m afraid all the time. I’m afraid for my brother Matthew and what will happen to him. I’m afraid for my little brother, Hugo, and my twin brother, Harry, and what it will be like if we’re thrown out of our apartment and tossed into foster homes and public schools. I don’t even want to know what would happen if either one of them was faced with an actual bully. Harry would probably dissolve into a blubbering ball on the floor and get his butt kicked, while Hugo would probably—no, definitely—Hulk Out and tear whoever it was limb from limb. Then I’d have two brothers behind bars.

And of course I’m also terrified that I may never see James again.

James Rampling. The only boy I ever loved, and the one person (besides my older sister, Katherine, who died years ago) I could trust with all these emotions… if I had any idea where to find him.

That might be the worst fear of all—that I’ll never get to experience true love again. The very thought makes my stomach clench, my heart pound, and my mind race.

See? Fear. I can’t stand it. And if things don’t calm down soon, it might be the one emotion that’ll convince me to go back to being Maud and Malcolm’s good little robot. To go back to the drugs.

To go back to being numb.

Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson

Read by Emma Galvin

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